This week, two Florida Republicans offered support to an Oregon congressman’s effort to close coverage gaps in Medicare that seniors across the nation are facing.

On Wednesday, Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Carlos Curbelo cosponsored U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader’s, D-Oreg., “Medicare Enrollment Protection Act.” U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., is also backing the proposal.

Currently, seniors 65 and older who do not enroll in Medicare Part B in their first eight months of retirement are penalized with higher premiums and having their Medicare coverage start later. Seniors who are covered by COBRA when they retire are also penalized. Schrader’s bill would create a special enrollment period for seniors who miss the normal enrollment periods due to having COBRA coverage.

“Confusion over rules should not prevent anyone from receiving coverage, and it certainly should not penalize them for the rest of their life,” said Schrader. “No one should be slapped with higher premiums for life simply because they opted into a program that kept them in their own network longer. And it is unacceptable for anyone to have a lapse in coverage because of a confusing enrollment process.”

“We should not penalize seniors through higher premiums because they chose to remain in their current network,” said Curbelo. “Every day my casework staff hears about the horrors of navigating the federal bureaucracy, and we need to find ways to help those stuck in confusing processes. I’m proud support the Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2018 to help protect individuals who elect COBRA coverage and as a result, unintentionally missed the deadline to enroll in Medicare.”

“We want to ensure the transition from private health care to Medicare is easy,” said Bilirakis. “The current law does not meet that objective.  Additionally, the law does not properly reflect the need for flexibility due to the various challenges that those exiting the workforce face in today’s economy.  Our bill empowers seniors to make the health care decisions that best fit their individual needs without fear of a lifetime penalty, and I look forward to its quick passage.”

The bill will face some major challenges as its backers try to get it across the finish line. Schrader has been working on similar proposals since 2010 and the bill was sent this week to three committees as the House Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and the Education and the Workforce Committees will examine it.

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